At this time of the year, some B school applicants have already selected their target schools after thorough research, while some are still trying to figure out which schools will best meet their requirements.
Indeed, one of the most time consuming parts of the grueling MBA admission process is researching schools and selecting the ones that are the right ‘fit’. There are hundreds of amazing programs, and there is plenty of information about each one of them. Therefore, selecting the ones that will best match your credentials is indeed a daunting task. However, with proper planning, research, and initiative, you can definitely pick out schools that can align with your credentials and career aspirations.
Before starting your school research, you should first ask yourself, “What are my career goals and how will the school help me meet my career goals?” Once you have a clear understanding of your career objectives, qualifications, and experience, you can begin your school research.
Here are some useful tips that will assist you in your school selection journey.
1. Look at MBA Rankings:
You may start with looking at the rankings of schools. Keeping in mind your profile (work experience, industry, GMAT score, goals, etc.), you should look at the MBA rankings (US News, Financial Times, Business Week, etc.). This will give you some understanding of the group of programs that are strong in your field and where you are also competitive. Also, you will be able to categorize them into dream schools, reach schools, and safety schools. However, please do not rely on ranking blindly. (Representatives from top business schools confirmed this at the AIGAC Conference at MIT last month.) Use your own judgment and your needs/ interest and try to understand that a lower ranking school may align better with your goals and interests and give you your desired ROI.
2. Research Schools:
Begin your research based on your preferences and needs. For school selection, you will have to consider many factors e.g. geographical location, loans, scholarships, key projects/ courses, employment reports, and companies that are regular recruiters over the years. Also, don’t forget to research faculty, student groups, clubs, and organizations that match your personal and professional aspirations.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Am I suited for a more traditional 2 year full time MBA program or a part – time or executive MBA program?
- Will this school help me meet my objectives in the areas of education, networking, and career?
- Would I like to live in a big city or a small town?
- What kind of teaching style or method suits my interest? Case study method or lecture method?
- Do I prefer small classes or big classes?
- Will the core courses offered by the X school provide me a solid foundation in key business areas?
- Will the electives allow me to develop specialty areas of my interest?
- Do my GPA and GMAT score measure up with the average of this school?
- Does this school have clubs/ organization where I can pursue my interests my chosen sport (or any other hobby/ interest)?
- Do the recruiting companies of my choice/ industry visit the campus?
- What will I contribute to the school community?
- Will I be a good ‘fit’ for this school?
You may add your own questions to the above list. Based on this research, you should be able to shortlist some schools. The first and the simplest way to learn about the shortlisted schools is to visit the school website and go through all the information it offers.
3. Talk to Students/ Alumni and Other Experienced People:
You should also start reaching out to people with MBA experience: colleagues, friends, current students, and alumni, etc. This will help you determine if their perspectives and experiences align with your findings or not. You can contact current students and recent alumni and get their feedback via phone call or email. Talk to them about career enhancing opportunities courses/ competitions/ projects/ fairs at the school. But make sure to talk to multiple alumni because individual feed-back may be biased. Later, you can use the relevant information in your essay to answer the question ‘why our school?’
4. Visit Schools/ Attend Info Session in Your City:
Visiting schools is one of the best ways to get a feel of the school. School visits will provide you relevant information on your shortlisted schools. Attend school information sessions, attend a class or two, meet with a faculty, talk to students, and take a tour of the campus. In other words, get a feel of the life on campus and see if you want be a part of this community or not. However, if visiting the campus is not feasible in view of the distance and the cost involved, do what you can to obtain as much information about the school as possible. Business schools conduct admission events throughout the world to engage with prospective students. Find out when they are visiting your area and make sure to attend the events. Again, while answering “Why our school?” part of the Goals essay, you can cite interesting aspects of your school visits (e.g. class visit, meeting with faculty/ students, information session, etc.) and information sessions in your city in order to demonstrate your preference/ interest for that particular school.
5. Visit Forums:
Online discussion forums are wonderful platforms where you can post your specific queries about school search or any other question regarding MBA admission process and get expert advice from admission consultants. Also, you can share your views/ experiences with other students who are active on these forums and are also finding their way around like you.
I would suggest that you create a separate word document or a PPT for each shortlisted school, and write down the aspects of each school that you like (e.g. specific classes and professors, student groups, clubs, recruiting companies, and above all, culture), and how that program will help you reach your career goals.
In the end, use your own judgment and make a final decision. I am sure all this home work will prepare you well and give you enough confidence to prepare your final list of target schools.
Note: You may like to read Eduardo Silva’s suggestions on school selection and other aspects of the application process. Eduardo was accepted into UCLA, Yale, and Kellogg with substantial scholarships (Kellogg: 70K Donald Jacobs scholarship, Yale SOM: 20k scholarship, UCLA Anderson: 70k scholarship). He is heading to Kellogg to begin his MBA in Fall, 2016. In a chat with MER, Eduardo says, “Planning ahead is the main reason behind my success.”
Good luck on your application. J
For questions, email Poonam at email@example.com